ProWrestling

Best Of The Super Juniors: New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Craziest Tournament, And Why It’s Dividing Wrestling Fans

If you’re on any social-media platform at all, you probably noticed a certain wrestling match getting discussed a lot over the weekend. The match in question is a one-on-one bout from New Japan Pro Wrestling between Ricochet and Will Ospreay, and we’ve already delved into it a bit.

What would normally be a high-profile yet routine match for NJPW ended up generating something of a firestorm among elitist wrestling fans and casual viewers alike. So, now that your Facebook feed is clogged with well-meaning uncles asking if this is “still that stuff you watched when you were a kid,” now might be the perfect time to contextualize all this. Lost in the shuffle of all the discussion is the setting for the Ricochet/Ospreay match… the annual Best of the Super Juniors tournament. Let’s take a closer look.

What is Best of the Super Juniors?

Best of the Super Juniors is the yearly tournament put on by New Japan Pro Wrestling to showcase their junior heavyweight wrestlers. Now in its 23rd year, past winners have included Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Tiger Mask, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, and Finn Balor. In its current format, competitors are split into two groups and must face each other competitor, round-robin style. Points are awarded for victories, and the winners of each group face off in a final match to determine the winner. The overall victor then usually gets a shot at the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.

So, is this basically the G1 Climax for junior heavyweights?

Yeah, that’s the right idea. G1 is more of a heavyweight tournament, although junior heavyweights like Kota Ibushi and Jushin Liger have occasionally stepped up to the challenge.

Who are the power players this year?

The man with the target on his back right now is the current IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion, KUSHIDA. After Jushin Liger announced that he was most likely in the final stage of his legendary career, KUSHIDA successfully defended the title at Wrestling Dontaku in May against Liger, his boyhood hero. Saying that he was hereby “stopping the clock” on Liger’s retirement plans, KUSHIDA has been playing the role of fighting champion ever since. It’s a role he’ll have to get used to, because the entire Best of the Super Juniors field is coming for him. That’s 15 potential challengers, including reDRagon (Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish), Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero and Beretta), a member of the Bullet Club (Chase Owens), a member of Los Ingobernables (BUSHI), and the co-booker of New Japan himself (Gedo).

As well as Ricochet and Will Ospreay, right?

Correct. Ospreay is hellbent on getting another title shot after coming up short in April, and Ricochet is looking to become a two-time Best of the Super Juniors winner. They’re two of the best high-flyers in the world, and in what was essentially a qualifying match, they ended up accidentally setting the wrestling world on fire.

So, is the hype real? They must have done something big to get this kind of response, right?

I can answer this question, but it’s not going to be a simple matter. If you’re looking for an easy-to-swallow Buzzfeedian “17 Reasons Why Wrestling Is Cool Again” response, I can’t help you. There are multiple sides to why this match is simultaneously the best and worst thing to ever happen in a wrestling ring. If you’re still with me at this point, let’s play devil’s advocate.

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